Friday, January 25, 2008

Hacienda Macalauan

“Apparently, sticking our arms into lots of cow shit has not curbed our appetite.”

The Monday after Herbalife’s Spectacular, Che and I stayed the whole day at the English Department of Ateneo de Manila University giving teachers a free health and wellness evaluation that includes a fat analysis. Side tripped to Jesscom and shopped for shoes in Baranka, Marikina. At around 6 p.m., left for Laguna to visit my brother, Bayani, in Hacienda Macalauan, a dairy farm that provides the milk of Manila-based coffee shops (except Starbucks).

It is already dark when Bayani and Grace, his girlfriend, pick up me and Cheryl at a road junction in the blue car that he and his three colleagues share. When we arrive, Bayani parks in front of a huge sprawling air-conditioned house that has a huge living room, four big bedrooms, a television, a washing machine and a dryer, and a huge refrigerator. (Kuyawa uy.) Maiden is the only other vet in the house; the other vets are in Thailand and in Makati. When Bayani and Grace’s former schoolmates at UP LosBanos, Jae and Elma, arrive, Che and I get to work on the Herbalife demo and answer everyone’s questions. First mission accomplished.

The next morning, Che and I get up from our sofa beds in the living room to find that Bayani and Maiden have already left to check up on the cows. So with camera in tow, Che and I step out of the house to explore the dairy farm by ourselves. For about 30 minutes, we stand watching in fascination at 10 male cows or “bulls” who are taking turns mounting each other. One bull’s nose is tied to a metal bar and the other bull is led to stand behind it. Everyone waits patiently for the second bull to mount the first one. Why are the farmhands urging one bull to have sex with another bull?

Bayani arrives and explains that that’s how semen’s collected from the animals. A single ejaculation is collected, and when it is processed, some 100 straws can be produced from it. In the laboratory, each straw has the potential to become a cow or a bull after its fertilized with an egg. The resulting male eggs are discarded, only the female eggs are kept and implanted in a cow’s ovary. In Hacienda Macalauan, female cows are valued for their milk and bulls are valued for their semen.

He continues the lecture: one bull can mate naturally with 10 cows. But here in Hacienda Macalauan, because of artificial insemination, one bull can provide processed semen for over a hundred cows. Bayani: What we are doing is not genetic modification but selection. We select the traits we like in a cow or bull, and because of these traits we use them in breeding, so that these traits will be passed on to their offspring. He laughs and shrugs: This is how it goes on all farms. With pigs too you know. (Me: I’m glad I’m not a cow. Bayani: You should be glad you’re not any farm animal. Me: Bitaw no?)

We hop on the motorbike and Bayani drives us to the part of the farm where Maiden oversees the milking of the cows. Four heavy metal tubes are attached to each cow’s tits. The pressure sucks the milk which flows into a hose and is then collected in a container. If there’s no more milk that flows through the hose, that means the cow has no more milk and the tubes are removed. Bayani says it’s important to suck out all the milk from the cow’s tits, I mean, breasts, to avoid infection. I watch Maiden demonstrate how to milk a cow with her hand. Then it’s my turn. I curl my fingers around the black rubber-like tit, first the thumb and my pointing finger and then the rest of my fingers. Yippee, a strong spurt of milk!

Next stop: infanticipating cows. There’s a row of cows lined up beside each other. Bayani leads one into a pen so tiny that the cow can barely move. He then puts on a glove that reaches up to his armpits and covers his right shoulder, he rubs a lotion on the glove, and then slowly sticks his hand up the anus of the poor beast. When Bayani removes his hand, bits of dark brown shit tumble out. Cheryl and I shriek in disgust. Once all the shit’s removed, Bayani’s whole arm disappears in the anus.

He explains: “First, you have to remove all the cow’s shit. Close your hand when you put it in the anus. Once inside, spread your hand flat and feel the fetus.” Che gives it a try and tentatively puts her hand in the cow’s behind. Gosh it’s hot, she says. Then she pushes further, her whole arm now stuck in the cow’s behind. She gets alarmed when the cow’s butt muscles contract and she shrieks. I snap a picture to send to her husband, Bryan. Second mission accomplished.

It’s now 9:30 a.m. Time for breakfast. Che and I leave Bayani with his cows and head towards the house where a delicious meal of fish and eggs is waiting on the table. Apparently, sticking our arms into lots of shit has not curbed our appetite. Thanks Doc Broeck for the amazing tour!

1 comment:

r0n4Ld said...

nice post, maya! very FUNny